The order making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students to attend college in Kerala was not discriminatory, the High Court said on Tuesday, October 26. While the students hold the right to refuse vaccination, the University's decision to mandate it to allow entry cannot be challenged, Bar and Bench reported the court as saying.
"No doubt, as held by the Apex Court in Aruna Ramachandra Shanbaug, the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to refuse medical treatment as well, but in the light of the decisions in Mr. 'X' and G.Sundarrajan, I am of the view that the said right of individuals does not in any manner affect the authority of the executive to take measures like those impugned in the writ petitions to restore normalcy to life in times of pandemic, and merely for the reason that the same gives certain advantages to the vaccinated, such measures cannot be challenged as discriminatory by the unvaccinated," the court observed.
The petitioners of the case are students in various colleges who had decided not to take vaccination fearing adverse effects. They contended that vaccination is not compulsory and the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution gives them the freedom to refuse taking the vaccine. In this light, they called the circular released by the Directorate of Collegiate Education and the order by the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) unconstitutional and illegal.
The circular, on October 1, said that all students, teachers and other staff of the colleges should have taken both doses of COVID-19 vaccine or one dose two weeks earlier or recovered from COVID-19 within 90 days. Those who could not take vaccination due to medical reasons may produce the relevant certificate to enter the college. The SDMA's order released a day later said that classes can begin in colleges with students and teachers/ other staff who have got both doses of vaccine.